By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Children, who do not skip breakfast, will perform well in school and score a high percentage of marks in examinations.
The city-based National Institute of Nutrition, in a study, has found that regular habit of consuming breakfast can improve attention-concentration, memory and school achievement. This is primarily because the micronutrient supplementation in breakfast improves attention concentration among schoolchildren.
The NIN team comprising deputy director Shehnaz Vazir, NS Gajre, S Fernandez and N Balakrishna selected two schools catering to middle class families in Hyderabad. As many as 379 students of classes 6, 7 and 8 were enrolled for the study. They were divided into two groups: one partaking breakfast and the other skipping it.
Comparison between the groups indicated significant differences in the letter cancellation (special test involving hand-eye movement) total scores with the regular breakfast group achieving the highest mean scores compared to the no breakfast group.
Moreover, marks scored by the regular breakfast group in science and English and total percentage were significantly higher compared to those scored by the children in the no breakfast group.
"Regular breakfast eating habit and weight for age per cent were significantly associated with immediate recall memory score explaining 4.3 per cent variation. Regular habit of eating breakfast as opposed to irregular consumption or skipping breakfast altogether had beneficial influence on attention-concentration, memory and school achievement," the NIN researchers said.
According to the team, eating breakfast provides energy for the brain and improves learning. The effect of glucose deprivation is noticeable by a fall in blood glucose level of sufficient degree, which is rapidly followed by disturbance in cerebral function. The gap of about 10 to 12 hours between dinner and breakfast causes, low blood glucose levels and habitually missing breakfast can adversely affect cognitive performance.
"The gradual decline of insulin and glucose level could determine a stress response, which interferes with different aspects of cognitive
function, such as attention and working memory. It is plausible that the decline in cerebral iron level likely to result from diet that is deficient in heme (iron molecule) intensifies the stress associated with overnight and morning
fast," the study pointed out explaining how breakfast would help schoolstudents improve their academic performance.
Breakfast eaters tend to have higher basal metabolism, and have less craving for the food. Children who skip breakfast but eat later on in the
day may catch up their daily nutrient requirements but are unlikely to attend and concentrate on the teacher’s lecture in the morning session because they are hungry. If the transitory metabolic changes due to skipping breakfast were to occur frequently, they would be likely to have a cumulative adverse effect that may place a child’s school progress at risk, the NIN nutritionists warn.